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Then there had been a wonderful breakfast as the dawn flared up across the bay, and then the ghastly drive over to Kingston to the white table of the surgery in the emergency ward. Pleydell-Smith had been summoned. No questions had been asked. Merthiolate had been put on the wounds and tannic ointment on the burns. The efficient Negro doctor had written busily in the duty report. What? Probably just 'Multiple burns and contusions'. Then, with promises to come into the private ward on the next day, Bond had gone off with Pleydell-Smith to King's House and to the first of the meetings that had ended with the full-dress conference. Bond had enciphered a short signal to M via the Colonial Office which he had coolly concluded with: 'REGRET MUST AGAIN REQUEST SICK LEAVE STOP

SURGEONS REPORT FOLLOWS STOP KINDLY INFORM ARMOURER SMITH AND WESSON INEFFECTIVE AGAINST FLAME-THROWER ENDIT.'

Now, as Bond swung the little car down the endless S-bends towards the North Shore, he regretted the gibe. M wouldn't like it. It was cheap. It wasted cipher groups. Oh well! Bond swerved to avoid a thundering red bus with 'Brownskin Gal' on the destination plate. He had just wanted M to know that it hadn't quite been a holiday in the sun. He would apologize when he sent in his written report.

Bond's bedroom was cool and dark. There was a plate of sandwiches and a Thermos full of coffee beside the turned-down bed. On the pillow was a sheet of paper with big childish writing. It said, “You are staying with me tonight. I can't leave my animals. They were fussing. And I can't leave you. And you owe me slave-time. I will come at seven. Your H,”

In the dusk she came across the lawn to where Bond was sitting finishing his third glass of Bourbon-on-the-rocks. She was wearing a black and white striped cotton skirt and a tight sugar-pink blouse. The golden hair smelled of cheap shampoo. She looked incredibly fresh and beautiful. She reached out her hand and Bond took it and followed her up the drive and along a narrow well-trodden path through the sugar cane. It wound along for quite a way through the tall whispering sweet-scented jungle. Then there was a patch of tidy lawn up against thick broken stone walls and steps that led down to a heavy door whose edges glinted with light.

She looked up at him from the door. “Don't be frightened. The cane's high and they're most of them out.”

Bond didn't know what he had expected. He had vaguely thought of a flat earthen floor and rather damp walls. There would be a few sticks of furniture, a broken bedstead covered with rags, and a strong zoo smell. He had been prepared to be careful about hurting her feelings.

Instead it was rather like being inside a very large tidy cigar-box. The floor and ceiling were of highly polished cedar that gave out a cigar-box smell and the walls were panelled with wide split bamboo. The light came from a dozen candles in a fine silver chandelier that hung from the centre of the ceiling. High up in the walls there were three square windows through which Bond could see the dark blue sky and the stars. There were several pieces of good nineteenth-century furniture. Under the chandelier a table was laid for two with expensive-looking old-fashioned silver and glass.

Bond said, “Honey, what a lovely room. From what you said I thought you lived in a sort of zoo.”

She laughed delightedly. “I got out the old silver and things. It's all I've got. I had to spend the day polishing it. I've never had it out before. It does look rather nice, doesn't it? You see, generally there are a lot of little cages up against the wall. I like having them with me. It's company. But now that you're here...” She paused. “My bedroom's in there,” she gestured at the other door. “It's very small, but there's room for both of us. Now come on. I'm afraid it's cold dinner-just lobsters and fruit.”

Bond walked over to her. He took her in his arms and kissed her hard on the lips. He held her and looked down into the shining blue eyes. “Honey, you're a wonderful girl. You're one of the most wonderful girls I've ever known. I hope the world's not going to change you too much. D'you really want to have that operation? I love your face-just as it is. It's part of you. Part of all this.”

She frowned and freed herself. “You're not to be serious tonight. Don't talk about these things. I don't want to talk about them. This is my night with you. Please talk about love. I don't want to hear about anything else. Promise? Now come on. You sit there.”

Bond sat down. He smiled up at her. He said, “I promise.”

She said, “Here's the mayonnaise. It's not out of a bottle. I made it myself. And take some bread and butter.” She sat down opposite him and began to eat, watching him. When she saw that he seemed satisfied she said, “Now you can start telling me about love. Everything about it. Everything you know.”

Bond looked across into the flushed, golden face. The eyes were bright and soft in the candlelight, but with the same imperious glint they had held when he had first seen her on the beach and she had thought he had come to steal her shells. The full red lips were open with excitement and impatience. With him she had no inhibitions. They were two loving animals. It was natural. She had no shame. She could ask him anything and would expect him to answer. It was as if they were already in bed together, lovers. Through the tight cotton bodice the points of her breasts showed, hard and roused.

Bond said, “Are you a virgin?”

“Not quite. I told you. That man.”

“Well...” Bond found he couldn't eat any more. His mouth waa dry at the thought of her. He said, “Honey, I can either eat or talk love to you. I can't do both.”

“You're going over to Kingston tomorrow. You'll get plenty to eat there. Talk love.”

Bond's eyes Were fierce blue slits. He got up and went down on one knee beside her. He picked up her hand and looked into it. At the base of the thumb the Mount of Venus swelled luxuriously. Bond bent his head down into the warm soft hand and bit softly into the swelling. He felt her other hand in his hair. He bit harder. The hand he was holding curled round his mouth. She was panting. He bit still harder. She gave a little scream and wrenched his head away by the hair.

“What are you doing?” Her eyes were wide and dark. She had gone pale. She dropped her eyes and looked at his mouth. Slowly she pulled his head towards her.

Bond put out a hand to her left breast and held it hard. He lifted her captive, wounded hand and put it round his neck. Their mouths met and clung, exploring.

Above them the candles began to dance. A big hawkmoth had come in through one of the windows. It whirred round the chandelier. The girl's closed eyes opened, looked at the moth. Her mouth drew away. She smoothed the handful of his hair back and got up, and without saying anything took down the candles one by one and blew them out. The moth whirred away through one of the windows.

The girl stood away from the table. She undid her blouse and threw it on the floor. Then her skirt. Under the glint of moonlight she was a pale figure with a central shadow. She came to Bond and took him by the hand and lifted him up. She undid his shirt and slowly, carefully took it off. Her body, close to him, smelled of new-mown hay and sweet pepper. She led him away from the table and through a door. The filtering moonlight shone down on a single bed. On the bed was a sleeping-bag, its mouth laid open.

The girl let go his hand and climbed into the sleeping-bag. She looked up at him. She said, practically, “I bought this today. It's a double one. It cost a lot of money. Take those off and come in. You promised. You owe me slave-time.”

“But...”

“Do as you're told.”

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